A late 18th century Vizagapatam ivory table bureau
Lot 84Y
A late 18th century Vizagapatam ivory table bureau
Sold for £9,375 (US$ 15,943) inc. premium
Lot Details
A late 18th century Vizagapatam ivory table bureau
The rectangular top and fall front engraved with panoramas of buildings, trees and railings, within floral borders, enclosing three arcaded pigeonholes flanked by two narrow drawers and surrounded by seven short drawers; above one long drawer with similarly inlaid sides, on shaped bracket feet, 52cm wide, 27cm deep, 35cm high (20" wide, 10.5" deep, 13.5" high)

Footnotes

  • Comparative Literature:
    A.Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon, London, 2001, pp. 193-221
    A.Jaffer, Ivory-inlaid and veneered furniture of Vizagapatam, India,' The Magazine Antiques, February, 2001, pp. 342-349.

    The present table bureau belongs to a group of furniture and related smaller objects produced in the Indian town of Vizagapatam situated on the south east coast of India in proximity to the city of Madras to the South. It operated as a principle trading port from the 17th century due to its position on the major trading routes between Europe and the Far East. Vizagapatam was ideally located as a manufacturing centre with its harbour facilitating the transport of indigenous exotic timbers and materials including teak rosewood, ebony and ivory. Its proximity to Madras and Calcutta was also advantageous as goods were retailed there. In addition to the production of furniture, Vizagapatam had also been and established centre for the manufacture of dyed cottons which had attracted European traders since the 17th century such as the Dutch who established a trading post at Bimlipatam to the north in 1628, and the English, whose textile factory was founded at Vizagapatam in 1668. In 1768 the whole of the Circars region came under the control of the East India Company, with a subsequent increase in population due to the expanding lucrative coastal trade.

    In common with the present lot, the design of the furniture produced by the Indian cabinet makers was clearly based on European prototypes or pattern books. However the decoration exhibits Indian characteristics. The broad bands of engraved ivory feature exotic flowers and foliage. These motifs were derived from those initially drawn by Indian artists for use as designs on brightly coloured cotton goods which had become highly fashionable in the west since the 17th century. Whilst the first items of furniture and smaller wares produced in Vizagaptam from the late 17th century relied on ivory inlay and bandings inlaid into a primary timber such as rosewood, the vogue for ivory as the principle medium had become universal by the end of the 18th century. This necessarily restricted the repertoire of manufacture to smaller items of furniture such as chairs and table cabinets. The offered lot features architectural scenes to the central panels of the top, front and sides, in contrast to the a high proportion of recorded examples which either display vacant panels or rely on stylised plant motifs combined with linear decoration. Architectural scenes were derived from European print sources which were either faithfully copied or adapted to include Chinese or Indian elements based on local western-style buildings. However it is very rare that an image of this genre can be directly traced to a print source. The majority of surviving ivory veneered table cabinets feature a superstructure based on the configuration of an English 18th century bureau cabinet and the present bureau would appear to be a rare example combining the lack of superstructure and architectural scenes. Other examples of bureau form include those sold Christie's London, 17 November 1983, lot 10 and a toilet mirror sold Sotheby's London, 12 October 2007, lot 208 fashion for similar wares in Europe was spread through the examples which were brought back to the West by dignitaries and officials of the East India Company such as Edward Harrison, Governor of Fort St.George (Madras) (1711-17), Clive of India and Warren Hastings.

Saleroom notices

  • Provenance: By descent to the present owner from her mother, Miss Wigan. Believed to have been given to her on her marriage to Dr.W.Murphy, circa 1917 in Quetta, India.
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